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Let's Talk About Social for Small Businesses
Featuring an interview with with Elizabeth Jaime, the founder of Calma Floral in Miami.
The tagline for this newsletter is “A social media newsletter featuring the people who actually press post.” For lots of small business owners, that person is, well, themselves. And if you think there’s a lack of resources out there for professional social media managers, then I would almost guarantee there are even less for small businesses that know the importance of social but lack both the headcount and funding to have someone dedicated to it full time. That’s probably why when I shared this very lo-fi resource of Instagram best practices, specifically for restaurants and small businesses, it blew up.
I made that post because I felt frustrated by the amount of social media information that’s gatekept from small business owners, especially from the platforms themselves. When I worked at Condé Nast—the opposite of a small business—I was lucky enough to have access to the team at Instagram. Condé Nast social media managers worked closely with Instagram’s publishing partnership team; we went to their offices, had quarterly Zoom meetings, and teamed up with them on big social campaigns. I never had to worry about being in the dark on algorithm changes or new features—we always were tipped off ahead of time or got first access to releases. This knowledge has helped inform almost every single social strategy I’ve worked on since. But why aren’t platforms sharing detailed resources with small businesses too? Especially during a year that has devastated small businesses and forced them to rely on digital like never before? Yes, I’m aware that Condé Nast drives significant revenue for the platform—but so do the hundreds of thousands of small businesses on there.
I’d love to see Instagram start actively dispelling rumors around the algorithm (I’m sure you saw this most-likely-false post floating around), give small businesses the attention they give big corporations, share the swipe up functionality with accounts with under 10k followers, and create more free up-to-date resources. In the meantime, I’ll try and make this newsletter a place that will be just as helpful for the professional social media managers as it is for the business owners moonlighting as social media managers.
That’s why, in this week’s newsletter, I’m talking with Elizabeth Jaime, the founder of Calma Floral in Miami—and my old co-worker! She runs her entire floral business, all while managing its impressive social presence. Below, you’ll find a shortened and condensed version of my interview with Elizabeth, along with a summary of some takeaways from it! Oh, and some job listings too!
Rachel Karten: Hi!! So nice to be chatting with you. First off, can you tell us a little bit about Calma and what inspired you to start it?
Elizabeth Jaime: Calma kind of came to me. When I moved to Miami, I obviously knew I wasn't going to be working in magazines anymore. And I consciously saw that there was a gap in the flower market down here. In New York there's a lot of cool florists creating arrangements in non-traditional ways—and I didn't feel like that existed here on the same level. So it kind of started out as a hobby. I never actually imagined that it would be my job.
But then I got a job for the Glossier pop-up and once I got that it became more serious. Basically I started taking it more seriously and so did other people. From there the business just kind of organically grew.
RK: And how has social media specifically played a role in growing Calma?
EJ: Instagram is everything for my business. It’s the only channel, besides TikTok, that we are on. It's how I started the business and it's the one place where I feel like I have everyone's full attention. Instagram is also our second biggest source of website traffic, behind direct.
I basically approach Instagram like it’s my portfolio and share all the work I do. For example, I’ll send people there when they want to order an arrangement but they don't know exactly what they want. I'm like, look through our Instagram and show me what you really like.
I've noticed (and people tell me) that what our followers really love is that they feel like they know me and like they know that I'm behind the brand. For that reason, I make sure to keep everything updated. I mean, I try to post every single day. My goal is to constantly be posting on the feed and also on stories. I treat stories like a behind-the-scenes type of thing. And then the feed is more curated, obviously.
I go back and forth on how personal I should get on Instagram Stories. Sometimes I think that Calma is a business and it should feel professional, but other times I’m like the business is me, so I should give people a look at what I am doing or thinking about. I do think people generally respond better to when it's more me.
RK: I always recommend putting a face to your brand on social. How comfortable are you talking to the camera and do you have any advice for how to just go for it?
EJ: I wouldn't say I'm a hundred percent confident talking to camera. Having said that, I have noticed that when I do those types of personal stories and talk to the camera, I get a lot more engagement. That’s encouraging to me. Like, people write back and they have things to say and want to add to the conversation. It’s also just understanding that I'm not going to be for everyone, and that’s okay.
RK: Do you plan these more personal/behind-the-scenes IG Stories? Or are they more spur of the moment?
EJ: Basically there are days when I'm feeling very chatty and I want to say something and I just do it. And then there are days when I'm more reserved. So I kind of just take it day by day.
That being said, I always try to document things I am already doing, so I’m not creating extra work for myself. A lot of people ask me, How do you find the content to post every day? And I'm like, well, on most days I’m making an arrangement or working with flowers—and I’m always taking photos of that. I then have those photos, post one, and save the rest of them for the week ahead.
RK: As a business owner running your own social, what have been some roadblocks or hurdles you’ve had to overcome?
EJ: I think one of the hardest things about running your own business, in general, is that I am never “off” because it’s just me. And that’s especially noticeable with social. For example, after 6:00 p.m. I’ll be on my personal Instagram and sometimes I'm like, Oh, what's happening on Calma? And I realized I have like five DMs and the next thing you know I'm working at 8:00 p.m. I’ve been working on not checking DMs after business hours just to give myself some sort of break.
RK: What’s been a positive or silver lining running your own social?
EJ: First, you get to read all of the DMs. So you really do get feedback in real time. You also just learn a lot just based on how your followers engage with certain content. There have definitely been times where I’ve loved an arrangement that I’ve posted, but then it won’t get as many likes as a more straightforward, “basic” arrangement.
Second, I get to see how much business comes through social, which is really helpful. For example, this summer I noticed that people were coming to my site from social but not actually purchasing anything. I realized it was because I was only giving them one option called “designer’s choice” as opposed to a few different options to choose from. So I was able to see that behavior from social, add on the extra options, and then we saw the amount of purchases increase.
RK: What advice do you have for other small business owners who are trying to grow their account and digital visibility without a formal social media manager or agency?
EJ: If you really care about your Instagram and want it to be like a big part of your business, I feel like posting a lot and often is key. I also think the quality of images is really important! (I should note I was the senior photo editor at Bon Appétit, so I do have a background in photo.) I shoot my photos on an iPhone, always in natural light, and then edit with either VSCO or just within the Instagram editor to brighten a bit.
I also had my boyfriend build me three pedestals because I know that flowers photograph better on pedestals. Something as simple as that can make a huge difference.
RK: Thank you so much for taking the time to share all this, Elizabeth! Talk soon!!
A FEW TAKEAWAYS
Treat your Instagram feed like your portfolio—it should represent the breadth of what your brand offers.
Invest in the platforms that you feel are most valuable for your business. You don’t need to be everywhere.
Be real and personable. Try posting face-to-camera videos on your story. People like when they feel like they know you!
Make an effort to post every day.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and busy, just document what you’re already doing. People like a behind-the-scenes look.
Make sure to set boundaries around checking your business’ social media accounts. It might feel like mindless scrolling, but it often turns into after hours work.
Look at the insights social gives you on your website. What post are people coming from? What can the user behavior tell you?
Make sure your on feed image quality is good—try and shoot in natural light. Yes, that means taking whatever you’re shooting over to a window or outside. Also consider the background you’re shooting on—I’ve been known to shoot on everything from a tie-dye robe to an old dish towel.
BONUS: MORE SMALL BUSINESSES THAT I LOVE ON INSTAGRAM
Omsom is probably my favorite social media presence from any brand ever.
I love the way Ghia creates content from vintage images.
I want to buy every single thing that Eastonhaus sells through Instagram.
Diaspora Co. does amazing storytelling—and their spices rock.
Seemore just has A LOT of fun on social.
GOLDE embraces the “be real”-ness that Elizabeth talked about.
Everything about Woon’s social is great, but I especially love the little illustrations they incorporate throughout.
TBH into everything Youth To The People does.
AND, FINALLY, SOME SOCIAL JOB POSTINGS
Egunsi Foods, a brand that makes ready-to-heat, grab-n-go West African foods, is looking for a part-time Social Media Associate. No job posting, but you can email founder ‘Yemisi at firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Social Media Associate” for more info.
Thank you all for reading! As always, very open to feedback! See you again in two weeks!